Brussels secures consumer rights breakthrough



Representatives of all three EU institutions have reached a provisional agreement on the bloc's Consumer Rights Directive after hours of negotiations, paving the way for the draft legislation to be voted into law later this month.

An EU-wide right for consumers to change their minds about purchase decisions within two weeks and clearer pricing rules for Internet sales were among changes made to the draft legislation by representatives of the European Parliament, the European Commission and member states on Monday night (6 June).

Back in March, an updated version of the EU's Consumer Rights Directive was approved by the Parliament, but MEPs postponed adopting a final position on the new law to buy themselves more time to reach agreement with member states on the most controversial issues.

Agreement on right of withdrawal

Monday's deal contains a 14-day EU-wide withdrawal period for distance and off-premises sales during which consumers may change their minds. If for any reason they regret having made the purchase, they may return it.

Should sellers fail to inform consumers of their withdrawal rights, then the period of withdrawal extends to one year.

The price paid for the good must be refunded to the consumer within 14 days of withdrawal. Moreover, all goods ordered at a distance must be delivered to the buyer within 30 days: otherwise the consumer will have the right to cancel the purchase.

Digital goods are exempt from the withdrawal rules.

The trader is responsible for any damage or loss of the good during delivery, negotiators agreed, while the identity and address of the seller must always be clear.

MEPs had wanted traders to pay the return costs of any goods priced above €40, but the Council, which represents EU governments, refused to accept this.

Instead, parliamentarians now want the Council to accept that the costs of returning products bought at distance must be stated clearly in the sales contract. MEPs hope this will allow consumers to make informed choices when deciding where to buy and also boost competition between companies.

Final adoption in sight

Member states must formally give their green light to Monday's deal, but MEPs expect them to do so by Thursday (9 June).

'The Council would be well advised to accept this balanced compromise offer Parliament made,' said German MEP Andreas Schwab, the EU assembly's rapporteur on the Consumer Rights Directive.

'With this broad harmonisation of consumer rights, we succeeded in taking a great step forward in the internal market for both traders and consumers,' Schwab added.

If governments give their go-ahead this week as expected, the Parliament should formally approve the legislation at an upcoming plenary session on 23 June.

European consumers' organisation BEUC was still working on its response to the deal at the time of going to press.

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